Psychic trauma is one of the most frequently invoked ideas in the behavioral sciences and the humanities today. Yet bitter disputes have marked the discussion of trauma ever since it first became an issue in the 1870s, growing even more heated in recent years following official recognition of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
In a book that is bound to ignite controversy, Ruth Leys investigates the history of the concept of trauma. She explores the emergence of multiple personality disorder, Freud's approaches to trauma, medical responses to shellshock and combat fatigue, Sándor Ferenczi's revisions of psychoanalysis, and the mutually reinforcing, often problematic work of certain contemporary neurobiological and postmodernist theorists. Leys argues that the concept of trauma has always been fundamentally unstable, oscillating uncontrollably between two competing models, each of which tends at its limit to collapse into the other.
A powerfully argued work of intellectual history, Trauma will rewrite the terms of future discussion of its subject.
Can trauma really be relived or is the quality of memory such that it is impossible to repeat experience except by a sort of theatrical simulation? What actually happens in therapy in which repressed experiences surface, and does it really matter whether the remembered trauma is "true" as long as the narrative account serves its purpose? Although she provides no answers to these and other longstanding questions, Leys's groundbreaking book provides a framework in which to consider the conflicts that, since the early 20th century, have beset theorists and clinicians involved in the treatment of trauma victims. Not for the intellectually timid, this book moves through psychoanalytic theory from Freud and Ferenczi to Lacan, encompassing the treatment of trauma victims from three wars and ending with a scathing critique of the newer neurobiologically influenced theories of Cathy Caruth and Besel A. Van der Kolk. This genealogy does not aim to tie together threads of similar ideology, but instead points out where trauma theory seems to fall into a crevasse and implode. It is impossible to read this book without participating in Leys's unboundaried thinking, which, through a process of constant synthesis and leaps of connection, stretches the mind. (June) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|